#BookReview Together by Luke Adam Hawker @Kyle_Books @Octopus_Books @RandomTTours

Together - BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Together by Luke Adam Hawker, with words by Marianne Laidlaw. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Kyle Books for my review copy.


Together Graphic 3About the Book

Used to drawing out on location, the lockdown of 2020 suddenly limited artist Luke Hawker’s day to day work. Like many of us he spent months at home, and, unable to go out and about found himself inspired to depict the day to day effects of the extraordinary challenges unfolding across the world.

Together takes a gentle and philosophical look at the events of 2020. Using the metaphor of a monumental storm, we follow a man and his dog through the uncertainty and change that it brings to their lives. Through their eyes we see the difficulties of being apart, the rollercoaster of emotions that we have all shared, and the realisation that by pulling together we can move forward with new perspective, hope, and an appreciation of what matters most in life.

Format: Hardcover (64 pages)         Publisher: Kyle Books
Publication date: 18th March 2021 Genre: Art, Fiction

Find Together on Goodreads

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My Review

This is my first experience of reviewing a book of illustrations and I have to admit to being a little daunted at the prospect. It was reading the following details about how the book was produced that gave me a clue to a possible approach.

‘Together is very much a product of the new ways in which many of us have learned to work during lockdown. Having seen a beautiful depiction of the 8pm applause for the NHS, Editor Marianne Laidlaw approached Luke, asking him to illustrate the emotional rollercoaster we were all on. They started collaborating on the book, Luke mapping out images and Marianne writing words, while not having met – everything took place over Zoom for many months. The book’s creation mirrors its message that we are better joining forces and working together through adversity. Even in difficult times, there are silver linings, and beauty can be found.’

Inspired by the collaborative process described above, I concentrated first on the illustrations alone, reflecting on the feelings and thoughts they evoked. Then I returned to the beginning of the book, this time reading the words and looking at the accompanying illustrations together. By the way, I highly recommend checking out Luke’s Instagram feed where he shares insights into his work and the inspiration behind some of the images in the book. For example, I learned that one of the drawings, of people gathered outside a brightly lit store window, is a homage to Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks (held by the Art Institute of Chicago).

The publishers summarise the themes of the book as empathy, kindness, an appreciation of nature and of the people around us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start out that way, as a striking drawing near the beginning of the book shows which depicts people wheeling loaded trolleys as supermarket shelves are emptied.

Scale is a frequent theme of the illustrations with tiny figures shown against a background of towering building or tall trees. I also liked the use of contrasts – between light and dark, empty and full.  A good example of the latter is a drawing of people crowded together on the platform of an underground station and then in a tube carriage (I think it will be a while until we experience that again!) followed by the image of a deserted tunnel.  This is reflected in Marianne Laidlaw’s words which accompany the illustrations. ‘Quiet, where once there was an orchestra of noise. The busiest of places stood empty and still. Normal things began to feel strange. Strange things began to feel normal.’

My favourite drawings were the double page spreads because they were so rich in detail. I enjoyed spending time observing the individual figures and spotting the little touches included by the artist. A good example is a drawing showing people at their windows, as happened during the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’. Luke Hawker’s background in architectural design is clear in the details of the windows: their different shapes – square, round, arched; or their decorative features – shutters, balconies, porticoes.  Another drawing I particularly liked was a full page one humorously depicting some of the activities people have taken up to occupy them during lockdown.  Pillow fight anyone?

Throughout the book, the figures of the old man (inspired by the artist’s grandfather) and his dog (inspired by the author’s own dog, Robin) evoke a sense of companionship and generosity.  Occasionally, they appear as a solitary pair of onlookers or observers, such as a drawing in which they are seated on a bench high above a city.

The joyful final illustration encapsulates the book’s title and the anticipation of long-awaited reunions.

Together is a short book but one well worth lingering over. It is beautifully produced and would make a wonderful gift. It’s certainly going to be a treasured addition to my own book collection.

In three words: Tender, heartfelt, profound

Try something similar: A Drawing A Day by Edward Carey

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Luke Adam HawkerAbout the Author

This is the debut from Luke Adam Hawker, who worked as an architectural designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2015. He lives just outside of London with his partner Lizzie and dog Robin. Luke ships his prints and originals to buyers all over the
world and has been commissioned by brands such as Soho House Hotel Group, Annabel’s Club, and Eventbrite.

Connect with Luke
Website | Instagram | Twitter

Together Graphic 7

#BookReview The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce #20BooksOfSummer20

TheMusicShopAbout the Book

1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need.

Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind …

Format: Hardcover (336 pages)    Publisher: Doubleday
Publication date: 13th July 2017 Genre: Fiction

Find The Music Shop on Goodreads

Purchase links*
Amazon UK | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme


My Review

The Music Shop has been on my bookshelf ever since I heard Rachel Joyce talk about the book at Henley Literary Festival in 2017. You can read my review of the event here. Now I’ve finally read it, I’m kicking myself that it took me so long.

Set mainly in 1988, the book conjures up a vivid picture of that time – lava lamps, Ritz crackers, high street shops such and Dolcis and Tammy, using the Yellow Pages to find a tradesman. I know I’m showing my age now but I can remember browsing in record shops for the latest vinyl releases. This passage especially, as Frank takes delivery of new stock, evoked such memories.

Boxes of vinyl began to arrive the next morning. Rare original pressings, bootleg copies, white-label promotional labels, as well as entire box-set collections. Seven- and 12-inch singles in the shape of hearts, birds and hats; limited-edition releases on coloured discs in blue, red, orange, yellow, white and even multicoloured splatter. Soundtrack records, popular favourites. World music, second-hand classics, demos. Rare mono recordings, limited-edition audiophile pressings… Plain sleeves, picture sleeves. Albums with posters, fold-out flaps and signed covers.”

In the residents of Unity Street, Rachel Joyce has created a fabulous community of diverse individuals who nevertheless feel a growing sense of togetherness, especially when outside forces threaten to bring unwanted change. “Here they were, living together on Unity Street, trying to make a difference in the world, knowing they couldn’t, but still doing it anyway.

The book has a wonderful cast of secondary characters such as Maud, the owner of a tattoo parlour, Father Anthony, the owner of a religious gift shop, “Saturday” Kit who helps out in Frank’s shop, Mrs Roussos and her chihuahua…oh, and not forgetting the matchmaking waitress of The Singing Teapot.

I loved the little stories about the customers whom Frank helps with music choices, such as the man who ‘only listens to Chopin’. Frank’s uncanny ability to prescribe the music others need for their current predicament leads to some unexpected choices. My favourites were his selection of the perfect lullaby for a sleepless child and an album to rekindle a marriage that has lost his spark. In fact, I could have read a whole book of such stories.

Interspersed with events in Unity Street are Frank’s memories of his childhood growing up with his mother, Peg. Sadly for Frank, Peg lacked the conventional instincts of motherhood – “show Peg a boundary, she crashed straight through it” – but she was at least responsible for inspiring his passion for music through her wonderful stories about composers and musicians. As the reader will discover, she’s also the reason Frank cannot bear to listen to a particular piece of music. Unfortunately, Peg’s actions will come to influence Frank’s relationships with others as he grows up. “Frank was so busy loving other people he had no room to accommodate the fact that someone might turn round one day and love him back.”

Will meeting Ilse Brauchmann change things for Frank? Obviously, I’m not going to tell you but all I will say is, that if you’ve read any of Rachel Joyce’s previous books, you’ll know she has a knack for taking readers on an emotional journey. The Music Shop is no exception. I was advised by a fellow blogger who had read the book to have tissues ready at the end; they were right.

The Music Shop is just the sort of warm, uplifting story perfect for the times we’re living through. As Kit says at one point, “I can’t imagine a world without Frank”. Hallelujah to that.

In three words: Charming, funny, uplifting

Try something similar (in the spirit of Frank): In My Life: A Music Memoir by Alan Johnson

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116433648_3250124005044448_5505438321894254958_oAbout the Author

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ in 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire. (Photo credit: Facebook author page)

Connect with Rachel
Website | Facebook | Instagram

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